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Pelosi attends gathering for Israel in San Francisco; Palestinian supporters rally

Pro-Israel counter-protestors yell at pro-Palestinian protesters rallying outside the Israeli consulate in San Francisco’s financial district on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023. | Source: Noah Berger for The Standard

Supporters of Israel and backers of the Palestinian cause held competing rallies in San Francisco on Sunday as Israel officially declared war following a surprise attack by Hamas on Saturday and the death toll quickly spiraled into the hundreds.

At Congregation Sherith Israel on California Street, U.S. House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi and San Francisco Mayor London Breed joined local leaders and hundreds of community members Sunday morning to offer support for Israel and denounce terrorism.

Pelosi, who received a standing ovation, shared memories of her father, Baltimore Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., and his support of Jewish community members, as well as her own ties: "I don't have Jewish grandparents, but I do have Jewish grandchildren—in fact, the most of anyone in the Congress of the United States."

The speaker emerita insisted that, despite the recent and ongoing turmoil in Congress, there was bipartisan unity in support for Israel "whether military, diplomatically or financially, to help the Israelis, our friends."

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, took a selfie Sunday outside Congregration Sherith Israel in San Francisco.
Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, took a selfie Sunday outside Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

Breed was warmly introduced before expressing her condolences and referring to her time on a sister city trip to Haifa, Israel, in May.

"These attacks, here in San Francisco, we do not support," said the mayor. "We condemn them, and we stand with the people of Israel." 

Breed said she mourned the loss of Ofir Libstein, the mayor of Shar'ar Hanegev in southern Israel, who was killed during the attack.

Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, spoke Sunday at a communal gathering for unity and peace Sunday at Congregration Sherith Israel on California Street in San Francisco.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed gets a hug after speaking Sunday at a communal gathering for unity and peace at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

Around 4 p.m., hundreds of pro-Palestinian supporters gathered front of the Israeli Consulate on Montgomery Street for a rally organized by the ANSWER coalition, which announced similar planned gatherings around the country on its website. The protesters eventually began marching south toward Market Street, carrying signs reading slogans such as "Stop the Zionists" and "End USA Aid to Apartheid Israel." As a chilly bank of fog rolled in overhead, they chanted: "When people are occupied, resistance is justified!" and "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!"

A pro-Palestinian protester holds a sign while rallying outside the Israeli consulate in San Francisco’s financial district on Sunday. | Source: Noah Berger for The Standard

Rami Abdulkarim of the Palestinian Youth Movement spoke stridently in the tightly packed crowd outside the consulate shortly before the marchers headed south along Montgomery.

Protesters gathered outside the Israeli consulate in San Francisco ahead of a protest called “All Out for Palestine" on Sunday.

"Today we're seeing thousands of people coming together for Palestine, to support Palestinians here in the diaspora and abroad, against Zionism and the brutal occupation of Palestine and the 16-year long siege of Gaza," he said.

A smaller but still hundreds-strong crowd of counter-protesters gathered behind police barricades on the other side of Montgomery Street waving blue-and-white Israeli flags. They clutched a giant homemade banner that read: "The gates of hell are open: Free Israel."

Pro-Israel rallies were planned in Marin County and Santa Clara County on Sunday. A community gathering in solidarity with Israel was slated for 4:30 p.m. at the Osher Marin JCC Atrium in San Rafael. Meanwhile, a South Bay Vigil for Israel was planed for 7 p.m. at Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos.

On Monday, a community gathering for Israel was planned for Temple Isaiah in Lafayette.

Jewish community members sang and mourned together Sunday at Congregration Sherith Israel in San Francisco.
Jewish community members sang and mourned Sunday at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard
Pro-Israel counter-protestors yell at pro-Palestinian protesters rallying outside the Israeli consulate in San Francisco’s financial district on Sunday. | Source: Noah Berger for The Standard

Outside on California Street, Emma Beck said she felt deeply moved by the weekend's events.

"My heart is absolutely broken. It is devastating and horrible and my heart breaks. At the end of the day, innocent people on both sides are affected. Peace is the ultimate goal, but there's no room for terrorism," Beck said.

El Cerrito resident Eli Bildner told The Standard he was grateful for the chance to be in community and mourn, and to hear statements from California state Sen. Scott Wiener and see Speaker Emerita Pelosi. 

"I was especially grateful to be there with my two young children, and to see so many other children present as well—a manifestation of the Hebrew phrase, am yisrael chai, or 'the people of Israel live.'"

California's representatives in Congress and other elected officials have been speaking out about the violence in the Mideast.

U.S. Sen. Laphonza Butler, appointed last week to the seat vacated by the death of Dianne Feinstein, said she was "shocked and horrified by today’s coordinated terrorist attacks on Israel and its innocent civilians by Hamas."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said, "there is simply no justification for this. I stand with Israel and its people in denouncing this horrific act of terrorism."

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria expressed sadness Saturday over the death of the mayor of Shar'ar Hanegev, San Diego's sister city in Israel. Mayor Ofir Liebstein died in the Hamas attacks.

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